Due to the corona pandemic and measures being taken by Thailand to fight it, my travel and accommodation expenses have increased significantly from what I had budgeted for initially. I am extending the campaign to reflect this. Also I have had requestes from a number of people to extend the campaign into July as well.
My name is Kiri Howard and I am a transgender woman originally from Hamilton Ontario Canada, now living in Hong Kong.
Like many Trans people, I have an intense incongruity between my mental and emotional sense of self and my physical body. This medical condition is known as gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is an often debilitating psychological disorder that can lead to severe depression and anxiety, sometimes with physical repercussions as mine has, and many trans people end up resorting to suicide as this condition is not curable and the only treatment know to be effective in lessening Gender dysphoria is social and/or medical transition to the gender that matches their inner self.
Since the age of about 5 I realized I was “different” than the other boys. I knew that’s not what I was, but I was too scared to say anything because everyone kept telling me I was. For many, many years, I have battled with this condition, trying to ignore it, make it go away… it never did and I now know it never does go away completely. I did all the hyper masculine things I could think of to fight this off, join the army, play football, cars, motorcycles, racing… I even got married, which is what brought me to Hong Kong and had a wonderful son.
I used online role playing games to stave off my dysphoria for years, playing anonymously as a female player playing a female character. It did help for a long while, but in August of 2018, even that stopped helping. My gender dysphoria came back with a fury and it got worse, to the point that it was causing so much stress and anxiety that I started becoming physically ill. Then in late December of that year, I had reached my breaking point and found myself on the edge of one of Hong Kong’s tallest suspension bridges… I couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily, my dad was visiting me from Canada for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and my son, who I share custody of, were at my home that night. I decided I had to at least say goodbye to them before ending it, so I went home. They were both asleep when I got home, so I decided to play Final Fantasy 14 and tell them in the morning.
My in game friends wanted to do voice chat and since I had recently bought a new gaming headset, I agreed. I had used a voice changing program to mask my voice before this, but didn’t realize I had the settings wrong on my headset. When we started the voice chat, one of my friends commented “well… that’s not what I expected” when I first spoke. We continued to chat and play, having a great time till another member who already knew I was not what I had presented myself came on and said “Kiri, they know”. She asked the one guy to type M or F in the group chat in response to a private message she sent. Of course I knew what that question was, and when I saw the M show up on screen, I was mortified. I quickly disconnected and was about to delete everything! Then I started getting messages from my friends.. “Kiri are you OK.. what’s wrong? You left voice chat so suddenly…” etc.
I calmed down and went back and it was at that point I admitted to them (and myself for the first time) that I was transgender. Their response… “That’s ok, we don’t care, you’re still the same fun, bubbly girl we know and love”, gave me the courage to come out in real life and not go back to that bridge…. That was the beginning of my transition. I am eternally grateful to them for that. If it were not for them and my goof up in the game, I wouldn’t even be here typing this now! It has not been all rosy since then of course, but finally being my true self since that fateful night, I’ve been happier in these almost 2 years than in all the 40 before combined.
I came to Hong Kong for my sadly now Ex-wife, but I stayed for my son. He has been my biggest supporter and my rock in this typhoon. I would never have made it this far without his unconditional love and support! Since coming out as Trans to him, I have grown from an absent father to a very loving and devoted second mother. This little boy is my whole world and the thought of abandoning him to facilitate my transition makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.
Being Trans in Hong Kong has its own set of challenges, there is no health insurance coverage for any gender related care or surgeries and the very conservative nature of Hong Kong society, while not hostile, is not very accepting of us either. We are basically “tolerated” as long as we don’t cause waves. I was a teacher here for 12 years before coming out and now am essentially unemployable due to the Hong Kong government requiring proof of full gender reassignment surgery before allowing you to change the gender marker on your ID. This ID card is used for everything from signing a mobile phone contract, to opening a bank account, leasing an apartment and yes, getting a job. I have been fired and evicted for coming out as Trans.
I have been searching for a job in my field (teaching) since September of 2019. Here in Hong Kong, it is common practice to deliver a “trial lesson” with an assessing teacher observing you interacting with a group of students. I have always aced this and had glowing performance reviews from the observing teacher… however, once I present my ID card, I suddenly become “not qualified” enough for the job or some other reason to refuse offering me the job. It is always very clear that the M on my ID card is the thing that disqualifies me.Getting SRS will not only vastly improve my mental health and quality of life, but also allow me to change my gender marker on my ID and be judged only by my qualifications and experience as a teacher and become a contributing member of society once again.
SRS ( sex reassignment surgery) also commonly referred to as Gender Reassignment surgery(GRS) or Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS) is the most commonly known surgery for transgender people - it is sometimes also known as "bottom surgery", and other times it is mislabelled as "the surgery". Simply put, it is the reconstruction of your genitalia to better match your gender identity.
I have chosen Dr Juta Jansi in Bangkok as his work is very affordable and he is an absolute master of his craft. I won’t go into all the graphic details here, but if you would like to read about his technique or get a better understanding of SRS, you can read about it on his website here:
I will be documenting everything to do with this journey but the actual surgery itself on my YouTube channel,
I want both Trans and other people to be able to understand what the process and recovery are like outside North America, how important this is to transgender people, and I want to add to the resources and education available for people who are interested! It will all be available for anyone to view on YouTube for free, of course.
The end goal is $10,000 USD - this may change with international exchange rates. I will be transparent about changes so that everyone who is interested in contributing can know exactly where the money goes.
The surgery itself was last quoted to be around $11,600 USD. Round trip flights to Bangkok for myself and my dad, as I will absolutely need assistance in recovery, estimate around $1300-$1500 USD. As I will need to stay in Bangkok for a month to make sure recovery is smooth, hotel costs for a month of staying should be between $1500-$1600 USD. Taking all of this into account, and the money that I have saved, is how I reached a goal of $10,000 USD. Should cost of expenses change I will be sure to update below.
I hope you can see how gender confirmation surgeries can improve the quality of life and mental health for Trans people and I know SRS will do the same thing for me. I will be able to move on with my life and be able to raise my son instead of worrying about my surgeries and it is with great humility that I ask for your help. If you can, please donate as every last bit helps and if you are moved by my story I would also ask that you share it with your friends and family.
Kiri Alessandra Howard